South Lake Union Park and the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Seattle WA

This is an open thread.

39 Replies to “News Roundup: With the Pontoons”

  1. Andrew Cuomo is a disgrace to the proud legacy his father built as the governor of New York and proof — if any is needed after “W” — that political “dynasties” are almost everywhere and everywhen sub-optimal and a big mistake. The man is a corrupt cynic with one goal in life: maximizing his own power and wealth. If he has ever had a generous impulse in his entire life it has been well-hidden from others.

    1. I live in NYC now and the banter back and forth between different public officials and the media is astounding to watch. Cuomo frequently releases statements that sound simultaneously defensive and dismissive. The culture of corruption out here (including in New Jersey of course) is simply embarrassing.

      People love to deride the “Seattle Process” but at least we have a process that attempts to reconcile the needs of all stakeholders. Out here it seems anything can slip under the table and promises mean absolutely nothing.

  2. Yesler is an easy walk to existing buses, and DSTT. New battery-equipped trolleybuses should be able to run on wire to Broad and Second, drop poles, and motor down to Victoria Clipper.

    There are elevators to the Waterfront at Colman Doc, Pike Place Market, Lenora, and Bell. And street connections usable by buses at Yesler and Broad.

    To negotiate construction itself, linear transit along Waterfront should be good test of those small battery powered buses, and pedicabs. Whose capabilities will be strongest possible argument for return of streetcar service.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Might be interesting to see how many routes could have wire on the uphill sections and battery for the rest. That would wear the batter less than going up the hills on battery. It would also mean battery buses wouldn’t need extra time to charge.

      1. Battery technology is basically at the point now that buses can run an entire shift without charging. I don’t think there is much value to try mix wire and battery.

      2. AJ, question isn’t battery technology available, but, since we’re talking about short term here, whether buses we have now will work. Been awhile since I checked, but I think First Avenue is trolleywired all the way north from Jackson, trailing into Route 1, 2, and 13 wire past Space Needle and up Queen Anne Hill.

        Hard to know which is worse shame: Leaving that wire unused all these years, or leaving First Avenue north of Pike Place Market itself completely without bus service all those years. Since there’s nothing else whatever using that wire, and First Avenue either, Route 99 could have the street and all its stops to itself.

        Good thing about the battery buses, including being quiet and unpolluting, is that turnback at the Waterfront is no big deal. Several blocks they can get around before climbing back to First. Remember, since whole Waterfront will be a construction zone, exact routing down there will be subject to more than one change.


  3. “The US is way behind on high-speed rail.”

    That article is such an indictment on US transportation policies. France, Italy, Spain, China — all with new high-speed rail lines in the past eight years. Italy and Spain — those on the troubled side of the Euro crisis, with smaller economies, and the Republicans say we can’t spend or we’ll end up “bankrupt like Greece” or these countries — yet they managed to build high-speed rail that their citizens can use for business trips or other trips and improves their resilience to foreign oil shocks and climate change. Considering regional rail too, the article could have mentioned the Netherlands. Belgium, Germany, and Scandinavia, but maybe they didn’t need to build anything since 2009 because they’d already built their networks.

    And Britain, the country that in the 1990s was called “the worst rail network in Europe” (and maybe it still is). But when I had a national rail pass in 2002 and traveled on the medium-speed lines in London-Bristol, London-Edinburgh, Edinburgh-Crewe-Bristol, Manchester-Bristol, Manchester-Leeds, I felt it was ten times better than American trains. And there’s hourly service on a Manchester-Blackpool shuttle, and 15-minute service on London-Gatwick-Brighton, not to mention 10-minute service on parts of London commuter rail. This is “the worst of Europe”? Please give me the worst of Europe.

    And Russia has Moscow – St Petersburg HSR. OK, maybe that can be compared to DC – Boston. But meanwhile they’re continuously building more Moscow Metro lines and extensions, one right after the other, like London is, just to keep up with the population and ridership growth. While the US just looks at its population growth and waves its hands. “Let them eat the Interstates.”

    1. US has a regional HSR problem, not a national HSR problem. HSR continues to make no sense for the vast majority of the US, geographically speaking.

      The Feds probably need to be involved for the DC-NYC corridor because there are so many states involved, but otherwise this is really a state issue, and the states are waiting around for the Feds to give them free money.

      1. The states don’t have the financing capacity of the federal government, and the region’s that need HSR make up a lot of the country.

      2. Free money? Is that the $0.85 return we get on our tax dollar in WA, or is this more accurately stated in someplace like South Carolina or that gets $1.20 back for every dollar they pay in taxes? Because I’d be happy getting that extra $0.15 back and investing it in stuff like this.

      3. “HSR continues to make no sense for the vast majority of the US, geographically speaking.”

        This is the oddest sentence in an odd post. Geographically speaking? Who cares about geography? HSR continues to make a ton of sense for a large part of the U.S., demographically speaking. And the entire country stands to benefit from the environmental gains.

        And “free money”? The citizens and businesses of which state are not taxed by the feds? Go ahead and add up the tax contributions of Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Florida, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and any others I’m missing.

        Moreover, the underlying idea that the federal government has no interest in policy issues or infrastructure projects that don’t impact or serve the entire Union equally is…bizarre. The Anti-Federalists lost that debate some centuries ago. Would you have us refuse all New Starts monies? Besides which, aside from Texas and California most HSR projects cross state lines, placing them squarely in the federal purview by any definition.

      4. The federal government has its own currency and can create money, which is what you have to do when you’ve let your infrastructure decay for for decades while other countries have raced along and you have to catch up. We missed the window of record-low interest rates from 2008 to 2015 but it hasn’t closed completely, so we should build our infrastructure now while we still can, and other countries who are lending to us will be glad we’re finally getting our act together like they have. States have tight fiscal limits, many of them have constitutions that prohibit deficit spending, and they’re paying for unfunded federal mandates and may get a huge other one if this Medicaid contraction goes through. High-speed rail is like the Interstates: many of them cross state lines, and even those that don’t are of national importance. Even if HSR lines over 500 miles aren’t practical as some have argued, that still leaves Vancouver BC – Eugene, Sacramento – Los Angeles, DC – Miami, and between Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.

      5. Also Chicago to St. Louis, Mike, perhaps as part of eventual hub and spoke to other Midwest cites.

    2. The problem is Republicans. Same with the NYC subway and the problems for ST here. It isn’t just rail, its investment in general including all transportation. They promise just road investment and fall short on that as well.

      The problem for them is how to look like you’re investing in infrastructure when you’re really a corrupt politician pocketing cash and pretending to care. Thats why they refuse to fund every single option beyond just transit including education, parks, space exploration, etc.

      I know this is a transit blog and I’m not using nuance but the source of the problem is very clear. Stop voting for the pary that is and for the most part has decided to kill America and our dreams along with it.

  4. Some of you may not know this, but Pullman is a bit of a boom town right now. We’re seeing roughly 1,000 non student new people moving here a year (big growth for a town of 30k). The major private employer of the area just topped 5,000 employees and the university continues to grow. As a resident its exciting to finally see us planning for growth rather than reacting to it.

    If you’ve ever been here, you’ll find a city that is woefully under planned, streets running where they shouldn’t be, a transit system that has a million riders a year, but looks like this ( Homes and houses that are are overpriced, but somehow allowed to fall apart due to landlords who don’t live in the area and don’t care as long as the rent check clears.

    We’re just now beginning to see extensive downtown development to grow up and allow for people to live there. There is a feeling that we’re turning the corner and working hard towards becoming a first class city.

    All that being said, our current transit system is not ready for that kind of development. 18,000 of the towns 33,000 residents are students, most of them don’t have cars and rely on the bus system. That system runs 45 minute loops that doesn’t actually get people where they want to go. Building up, not out as the article and people of Pullman are suggesting is going to require a major change in the way we do transit in this city. The potential is there for this to come together and create something awesome, I just hope the vision exists.

  5. The Pullman article quotes a city commisioner saying

    I don’t think Pullman’s ever going to become a bicycle-friendly community, no matter what we do, based on the hills,” Olsen said

    Given the rising popularity of eBikes, this becoming an outdated way of thinking. Obviously we haven’t reached levels like Asia, but our eBike market is rapidly growing.

    1. Not really, actually. I think you need to view that statement from a different point of view where walking is actually superior than biking in this particular case. Its not a case of cars are better than bikes, its feet are better than bikes….

      Pullman is small, and roughly half the population is comprised of students. A significant portion of these students reside on either College Hill (greek row, basically) or Campus Hill (dorms). From both these hills, and College hill in particular, it is a very steep hill down into “downtown” Pullman, and there is only really one direct street to get from College Hill down into downtown Pullman (in most directions there are impassable ‘drop offs’). That street is particularly steep, and dangerous/sketchy when winter hits and there is ice on the roads. The reason I bring up the flow to/from downtown Pullman is that the city wants to generate/encourage a more robust and lively downtown area. They’ll need students for that…

      Besides a car, the best way to get to and from downtown Pullman from College Hill is simply walking. There are lots of “shortcuts” and staircases that are inaccessible to bikes and cars that students use everyday.

      WSU is not a commuter school, most students live right next to campus. When a WSU student says “I don’t need a car” its because they can/do literally walk to class. Hell when I was there only one of my friends had a car and they NEVER drove it.

  6. The article on the NYC Subway doesn’t suprise me, I visited for a week in 2015 and was appalled at the state of it. This is the impression we give the world in saying this is our best transit system in country is not a good impression in my opinion.
    The only way I see the MTA getting anywhere in fixing their problems besides Cuomo is implementing a new fare structure similar to London, which they should of done ages ago. Modernization both cosmetictly and operations wise, which would likely have to happen like WMATA is doing in shutting down lines one at a time and working on it all at once instead of piece meal.
    I wish the people of NYC the best of luck, because they have a long bumpy road to fixing this.

    1. I don’t see a distance fare working in NYC- London’s Underground distance fare works because it stretches way into the surrounding London suburbs while the Subway mostly serves NYC itself- and in any case you’d be impacting people in the Bronx and Brooklyn who shouldn’t be paying more than Manhattanites anyway.

      1. Perhaps not.

        While London’s fare structure is somewhat distance based — commuting from Amersham into central London is more expensive than commuting from Greenwich — the real high order bit seems to be charging a premium for access to Zone 1, particularly in the peak. This is partly a response to overcrowding, partly a conscious decision to charge commuters into Central London more, and partly a milk the tourist move.

        Whether the conditions are similar enough in New York would require a great deal more local knowledge than I have.

  7. Speaking of population growth, Washington State released its population estimates for April 2017 this week here. Seattle clocks in at 713,700. This is the highest population estimate ever published for Seattle, and represents about 27,000 new people in the past 12 months. Similar to the US Census data in the linked Gene Balk article, 2016-7 growth in Seattle outpaced the remainder of King County, which added 21,700 people.

    The recent US Census Estimate that pushed Seattle over 700,000 was for July 2016. The State estimates for Seattle have lagged US Census estimates this decade, so a comparable US Census estimate for July 2017 (not released yet) might be around 734,000.

    BTW, I don’t consider it a good thing that population growth in suburban King County is lagging the City while growth in Snohomish and Pierce Counties surges. A lot of the growth in the outlying counties should be happening in King County suburbs instead, closer to jobs and transit. But, Americans got to American …

    1. Chad, the King County suburbs are in a tough place. They’re old enough to have pressure to gentrify in their cores, but the folks in the nice neighborhoods are scared witless that their home values will be superseded by new high-end development. So they work against the renewal opportunities.

    2. Another thing is a lot of people in east King County and up into Shoreline have good money and good jobs and they own their homes and their governments have a good tax base, so they think things are fine and why go changing things, especially to make the neighborhood denser. Whereas in Snohomish and Pierce Counties the governments are desperate to attract jobs and many people have low pay and there’s little tax base. Development may attract companies, and it certainly creates construction jobs, and they have vast land devoted to decades-old malls and decaying commercial districts that can easily be redeveloped without bothering anyone. South King County is economically more like Pierce, but it doesn’t have much sway in the county government, plus its cities and residents are more ambivalent about growth.

      1. If present trends continue, including the 2008 Part Two real estate price explosion that’s destroyed 30 years on land use planning in three, South King residents and their Pierce counterparts will soon to go from “am” to “anti-bivalent.” About changes they have no power to prevent.

        So they might finally find it in their interest to cooperate with new forms of development they can stand to have in their neighborhoods. And be able to afford to live in. With built-in transit they can actually lose. All of which could encourage the kind of industry they’d like to work at and live near.

        Since average person is probably put off by amount of prozac necessary for regulation Ted-talk, let’s edit the name of the excellent land-use video a few issues back and put something else in the “*…Yeah!” title. Unfortunately it’s same word in German.

        So would “J*st D* It?!” work?


  8. The 99 isn’t really replaced by the new streetcar or the 29. The 99 connects belltown to the ID.

    I understand why they want to get rid of the 99, but what they really need a bus you can take from one end of downtown to the other without transferring. By that I mean go from the Seattle Center to the ID at least, and possibly down to Sodo as well.

    Ideally they would have a branch of the new streetcar line that just kept running up first to belltown. However, just running the D a little further south or the 14 a little further north would be fine…

    My motivations are purely selfish. I work in Belltown and want to be able to grab lunch in the ID without too much hassle.

    1. Route 1 goes from the west side of Seattle Center to the International District, where it becomes route 36.

      There’s not a lot of layover space in Chinatown, so running the D might be a bit much.

    2. The 99 isn’t supposed to connect Belltown to the ID; it’s supposed to run on the waterfont, but it’s displaced because of the construction. The buses you’re looking for are the 26 and 28 which are interlined with the 131 and 132 from Fremont to SODO. Or the D which serves Uptown to Pioneer Square. Or the aforementioned 1 to 14. (It used to be interlined with the 36 but was switched to the 14 when the 14 was split, because the 36 needs a lot more frequency. The 36 was with the 1 because it had split from the 1 earlier.)

  9. What is it with ST and their webcams? The Roosevelt Station webcam has been down since March 8th and now the Northgate Station webcam is down too.

    It can’t be that hard to keep a webcam up. It’s not like it is an escalator or something……

    What gives?

    1. I like the design. But would like to see one simple fast and cost-free change on them. New rule that all a fare inspector has go verify about a pre-paid pass is that passenger has it. Card-reader taps optional but strongly encouraged.

      Furry little stuffed Tapmunk on top of every fare-reader, and on sale at Customer Service counters should really encourage more subway-oriented tapping than a remake of “On The Town”. Sadly, hard to imagine anybody in low-energy Seattle turning out a human explosion like Vera Ellen.

      Though real question is whether, without turnstiles, anybody could ever put that much dynamite into role of “Miss Proof of Payment?”


  10. Not sure if Metro thought about tinkering with weekday+Saturday Route 27 trips to serve the proposed stop at Pioneer Square and extend trips that don’t connect with Route 33 to Belltown. This could really coordinate with the Route 3/4 trolley wire project that would go on at Yesler (if Metro does decide to pursue it). And I know messing with construction at the route 99 corridor would really bog things down.

    Say, what’s the extent of streetcar construction, anyway? Isn’t that going to mess with the 62, 121, 122, 123 and 125?

  11. Re: high speed rail. All above true about political Fake Accounting (well it’s capitalized for …News, isn’t it?) and ingrown sub-second world thinking, but like with the rusted-shut sprawl our cars-only transportation are finally giving us, present rail lapse is part of a pattern that’s now aged out.

    Compared to the whole European continent, and most of the rest of the world, the United States of America has always been both huge and empty. Soldiers coming home from WWII were the first generation in US, and maybe world history when the average person could buy a car.

    Fifteen years later, same for plane tickets, at a price level that to all intents, purposes, and service fit for humans put Greyhound as far out of business as it did passenger trains. So up ’til now, was possible to think that cars and planes were better fit for our country than trains of any speed.

    Cycles, from living patterns to the ones with spokes, run their course. Like with a telephone-book sized list of other public works projects, a rail system deserving of our flag on the sides of its vehicles will have to wait ’til the Democrats decide they ever want to win an election again.

    Perfect stimulus-free fit. Millions of the exact kind of well-paid jobs, with quickly learned skills, that’ll get our people working together instead of fighting each other.

    Budget? Considering the weakness and danger we’re inflicting on ourselves (ISIS wasn’t even there when the Bhopal chemical spill killed what, several thousand?) this is a Hell of a lot more National Defense than Jet Fighter One for Saudi Arabia.


  12. Route 99 never made any sense as a stand-alone route. When downtown bus capacity is strained because of the volume of buses from places other than downtown, then a downtown circulator really just exacerbates the problem, while itself costing money. What would have made more sense is to move one of the 3rd ave buses to 1st back when it would have worked. I’m thinking routes 19/24 because they already go to Belltown and would even have a straighter route if they stayed on 1st, and they have a similar frequency to the 99. ID coverage isn’t as good, but there’s a SODO connection.

    1. Route 99 is a replacement for the waterfront streetcar, which was shut down several years ago when the Olympic Sculpture Park displaced its maintenance barn and the county didn’t find it an alternate barn. It was moved to 1st Avenue because of a series of construction projects on the waterfront. Since it is on 1st, it has gotten some secondary use as 1st Avenue circulation but not very much. In the 80s the Ballard and West Seattle buses were on 1st Avenue, but they were moved to 3rd because people didn’t like waiting on 1st (it was more scummy and unsafe then, and the boutiques had just started arriving). So there has been a long tradition of people not really wanting to use buses on 1st and going to 3rd instead if they could. This has hindered the 99’s ridership, that and the fact that you can go to 3rd and there’ll inevitably be a bus within five minutes. The only way a bus on 1st will really work is if it’s frequent.

      1. Mike, the 15 and 18 ran on 1st Ave until at least 2010, because I rode them daily from Belltown to Interbay.

      2. Is it really that recent? I thought it was back in the 90s. But in 2003 I lived in Ballard for nine months and the 15 was my closest route. I may have caught it on 1st but I don’t remember exactly. It just seems like a lot of things have happened since they moved to 3rd and some of them must have happened more than seven years ago.

  13. I was disappointed to see the SLUT apparently out of service late on the evening of the 4th, which should have been one of its most popular moments. A streetcar stalled on the southbound tracks just north of Denny about 10:30 PM. They tried turning it off and on again a number of times, and finally got it moving (albeit slowly) around midnight.

    I couldn’t see its number, but its destination sign appeared to be a different color from the two that backed up behind it, so maybe it was the new one that was bought along with the First Hill streetcars?

    It was a bit surprising that they couldn’t somehow tow it, or couple it to one of the other streetcars.

    Anybody know more?

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